Home sales in Illinois rose 18.4% in July, with 9,708 homes sold in the state compared to 8,197 last year, according to the Illinois Association of Realtors. While sales went up, the median statewide sales price declined 3.8%, hitting $153,000 in July, down from $159,000 a year ago. "The market, like the economy, continues to struggle even though interest rates and prices would appear to suggest favorable conditions for housing purchases," said Geoffrey Hewings, director of the regional economics applications laboratory at the University of Illinois. Hewings expects to see year-over-year sales gains in the next three months for both Illinois and the greater Chicago area. In the Chicago metropolitan area, which includes nine counties, 6,625 home sales were recorded in July, up 19.2% from 5,560 last year. The median price in greater Chicago fell 5.4%, hitting $182,500 compared to $193,000. Write to: Kerri Panchuk.